Europa League round-up: Favourites edge ahead but no joy for Saints
In the second qualifying round for the 2012/13 Europa League, qualification favourites APOEL FC, Anzhi Makhachkala and FC Viktoria Plzen registered first leg victories in Thursday evening’s round of 40 fixtures.
There was no such luck for Scottish Premier League outfit St Johnstone however as the Perth-based side went down 2-0 in Turkey to Eskisehirspor courtesy of goals from Alper Potuk and Veysel Sari.
Steve Lomas’ Saints qualified for the Europa League preliminary rounds courtesy of Hearts winning the Scottish Cup back in May, but they face an uphill struggle now to stay in the competition as they will look to overturn the two goal deficit at McDiarmid Park on Thursday, July 26.
St Johnstone conceded at the worst possible time; just before the break as an Alper Potuk drive cruelly deflected into the net.
The Saints must have thought their luck was truly out when a second deflected effort managed to breach Alan Mannus’ goal on 64 minutes via Veysel Sari’s effort.
What will be in Lomas’ sides’ favour in the return leg will be the climate as the Saints struggled to cope with the sweltering temperatures in mainland Turkey and Anatolia.
Lomas told the media after the first leg defeat: “We know it is going to be hard now but it’s still alive, certainly.
“If we get a goal then who knows?”
Favourites register advantage
Elsewhere, Guus Hiddink’s mega rich Dagestan outfit Anzhi Makhachkala crept to a slender 1-0 victory against Hungarian side Budapest Honved FC with Brazilian international Jucilei striking half way through the first 45 minutes.
There were also second qualifying round appearances from captain Samuel Eto’o, Christopher Samba and recent signing from Kuban Krasnodar, Lacina Traore.
Last seasons’ surprise UEFA Champions League quarter finalists APOEL FC overcame Slovakian minnows FK Senica by a convincing 2-0 score line thanks to strikes from Ailton and Nektarios Alexandrou.
The Cypriot runners-up will now fancy their chances of progressing to the next phase.
Czech side FC Viktoria Plzen who also tasted action in the Champions League last season will be confident of making the next Europa League stage after a 3-1 victory away in Georgia at Metalurgi Rustavi.
Captain Pavel Horvath bagged a brace and Czech Republic international Daniel Kolar who was involved at Euro 2012, claimed the other effort.
There was almost a potential shock as minnows FC Naftan battled to a 3-4 defeat against Red Star Belgrade in a rollercoaster ride of a game in Belarus.
In another surprising match, Steve McClaren’s FC Twente could only manage a 1-1 draw with Finnish runners-up Inter Turku with Serb and recent summer signing from Groningen Dusan Tadic registering on the score sheet.
Similarly, wily old Champions League campaigners of many years gone by Rosenborg could only manage a 2-2 draw with Kazakh outfit FC Ordabasy in Trondheim.
Luck wasn’t particularly shining on the Irish once more as Northern Irish side Portadown were thumped 6-0 by Slaven Koprivnica and Republic sides Sligo Rovers and St Patrick’s Athletic registered a 3-1 loss and a 1-1 draw against Spartak Trnava and Siroki Brijeg respectively.
Third qualifying round draw
In Friday’s third qualifying round draw, a number of British sides entering at this stage have learnt their fate.
Brendan Rodgers’ first European assessment at Liverpool will be against either FK Renova of Macedonia or FC Gomel of Belarus.
SPL side Dundee United will face the hard task of overcoming Russian Premier League outfit Dynamo Moscow.
If St Johnstone manage to turn round a 2-0 defeat against Eskisehirspor, they will face French giants Marseille.
In the highly unlikely scenario that Portadown overcome a 6-0 defeat to Slaven Koprivnica, they will face last seasons’ Europa League runners-up Athletic Bilbao.
Sligo Rovers will have to overcome Spartak Trnava to face FC Steaua Bucharest and St Patrick’s Athletic will have to win to face German side Hannover.
Elsewhere Inter Milan entering at the third qualifying round stage will fancy their chances against either Hadjuk Split or Skonto Riga FC.
All other second qualifying round first leg results and the draw for the third qualifying round can be found on the UEFA Europa League official website by clicking here.
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